Columbus driver racing in his mid-70s

There is no truth to the rumor that Mike Bechelli once raced against Stirling Moss, but the Elizabethtown racecar driver has been around a long time. In fact, he has been racing for more than 50 years, and Sunday he turns 75 years old.

Still racing competitively at least two nights a week, the veteran wheelman races in two divisions. He has a Late Model and Modified he races on a regular basis. In 2015 he hopes to run 65 to 70 races around the region.

Nationwide, he is among the oldest active drivers still competing on a weekly basis, and at that he is still 11 years younger than Vallejo, California, Late Model racer Larry Damitz, who is still winning races at age 86.

Bechelli’s love for racing was handed down from his late father, Norman, who owned racecars in the 1950s and 1960s. Bill Mitchell of Columbus raced a Jalopy car for the Bechellis in the mid-’50s. In 1960 and 1961, the father-and-son team fielded a sprint car for Bobby Black of Columbus.

Mike Bechelli began his racing career in 1962 running AMA flat-track motorcycles all over the country in the sportsman division. In 1971 he was the top novice rider in Indiana, in 1972 he was the top junior rider in the state and in 1973 was named the Hoosier State’s top expert in his class.

During his time racing motorcycles, the younger Bechelli served in the Army National Guard for six years (1965-1971). He quit racing motorcycles in 1977.

He would resurface four years later racing a street stock at Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon. Bechelli raced in that division until purchasing a Late Model in 1986. He has been in a Late Model ever since and added a Modified to his arsenal three years ago.

Bechelli is a 1959 graduate of Columbus High School. He and his wife, Donna, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this October. Their son, Mark, is also a racer competing in the Late Model and Modified Divisions at Twin Cities and Brownstown, and their daughter, Michelle, is married to longtime Late Model driver, Scott Graham, and they reside in Franklin.

In his stockcar racing career Bechelli has won 63 events and 18 series and track titles. He also was the 1986 Late Model Rookie of the Year at Brownstown Speedway. A year later his son Mark was recognized for the same award.

What keeps Bechelli going at age 75, when most racers are long retired?

“What else would I do? It’s all I have known,” he said. “My dad lived until he was 92. I keep active here in the shop from sun-up to late at night working on my cars and other people’s cars. Then I go and race two divisions a night. It keeps me in great shape I feel.”

Bechelli wants to be instrumental in helping drivers get into dirt late model racing. He has a rent-a-car program that operates out of his race shop. Someone can rent a car per race or per month. Bechelli has dozens of cars he has either purchased or traded for. The interested party has a choice of either a crate or open-motor Late Model.

“It’s way to help out the local tracks, and to get someone started in Late Model racing,” he said. “It’s a great way to go. It’s not a great outlay of money for someone at the beginning, but hopefully it will lead to them buying a car.”

His sponsors include McDonald’s Restaurants, M&M Recycling, Ind Sol Tech, O’Reilly Auto Parts and MainSource. His pit crew consists of his wife, Donna, and son, Mark, along with Anthony and Madonna Dunaway.

MTQRL midgets to debut

After having its season opener rained out last week in Montpelier, the MTQRL Midgets will kick off their 2015 season tonight at the Shelby County Fairgrounds in Shelbyville.

Expected to be in the field of entrants tonight at Shelbyville are Columbus drivers Matt Arrington and Rick Robinson. Also, Tony Stewart Racing will field two cars on the circuit this year with drivers Ronnie Combs of Greensburg, and female racer Callie Wolsiffer of New Palestine, who will be a Rookie of the Year contender.

No racing results from last weekend. All of the local tracks were rained out.

Upcoming racing schedule

Brownstown Speedway, (812-358-5332)

Tonight: Super Late Models, Indiana Pro Late Models, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets.

Twin Cities Raceway Park, (812-346-7223)

Tonight: Modifieds, Crate Late Models, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets.

Lawrenceburg Speedway, (812-539-4700)

Monday: World of Outlaw Sprints, plus Modifieds.

Paragon Speedway, (765-537-2366)

Tonight: Non-wing Sprints, Super Stocks, Bombers, Pure Stocks and Hornets.

Eldora Speedway, (937-338-3815)

Sunday: Late Models, Modifieds, NARA Sprints and Stock Cars.

Bloomington Speedway, (812-824-7400)

Friday: Non-wing, Sprints, Super Stocks, Modifieds, RaceSaver Sprints and Hornets.